Godiva Festival 2024 preview

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Godiva Festival 2024 preview

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It's that time of the year again: with Godiva Festival 2024 now mere weeks away (it's on from Friday 5th July to Sunday 7th July) and lineups are being confirmed, it's time for me to get back on my soapbox and remind the world of how important the Festival is to local original artists.

Inevitably, the mainstream media tend to focus on the "big" names on the Main Stage and that's fine by me: those names attract the crowds, ensure the sustainability of the event and in terms of reportage, relieve me of the necessity to review them, leaving me free to commit my personal resources to the music which is my main interest.

I cannot emphasise too much (yes, I know I do this annually but bear with me please) that this is the single biggest event to showcase original artists from Coventry & Warwickshire. It's the shop window for the acts I write about in the magazine & where fantastic emerging acts can gain new audiences from among people hitherto unaware of their talent.

I mentioned sustainability: Godiva is celebrating 25 years in 2024 and there is so much to celebrate. However most people will know that external events and pressures have resulted in its continued existence being called into question over the last few years.

The team who put it together are incredibly committed to its future and moved heaven and earth to maintain its viability. Hence the introduction of entry charges, which though a blow to many, mean that the show goes on.

Each year they have a look at seeing what's working & what needs a tweak, so expect a slightly different configuration of stages for 2024: especially if you are keen to see your favourite local acts.

The changes at the BBC have impacted here too: the shift from a tight focus on the music of Coventry & Warwickshire to a broader West Midlands Introducing catchment has inevitably meant that our artists have featured less frequently on air. This places yet more emphasis on that role of crucial showcase at Godiva, but thankfully the local BBC team will be at Godiva 2024 and will be introducing many great acts like Ace Ambrose, Stylusboy,  Duck Thieves, Izzie Derry, Bar Pandora, Levi Washington (with Charlotte Faulconbridge as "Washington X Bridge") Monday Nights and Shanade (all of whom have featured on "Hot Music Live Presents") on the "Cov Stage".

So what is exciting me in particular? Well obviously I've just namechecked a load of artists I must see. In addition, HMLP artists such as Dean MacDonald, The Boy Who Invented Everything and Pandora will be on the Cov Stage too.

For me, the naming of Project Overload and Loophole as Main Stage acts is a real highlight (as it is to the Festival team). This to me is the Power of Godiva at its most potent: to showcase emerging talent at the earliest possible opportunity. Who knows where their path will lead from here, but for a band whose members are aged between fourteen & nineteen (Project Overload) and another younger still, there is an awful lot of future ahead of them. It is also a great opportunity to mention the work of the "Live On Stage" project which nurtured them: as it has other bands who've played at Godiva & I'm certain many more to come. It is so fortunate that one band has a member aged nineteen and so had to go into an adult category of "Godiva Calling" otherwise they would have been competing with each other for a single slot.

This sense of the cutting edge & the freshness which comes with it is what I'm most exhilarated by: the role of the familiar is so important in building & keeping crowds but to me, watching relatively early steps of people who could go so much further is so exciting: and all of them are already having their talents validated by being asked to play.

Project Overload are buzzing with sharing their skills with such a big audience: in their own words: "we are incredibly excited to be able to showcase our music! Having seen bands such as The Libertines, Editors and Feeder play, it feels surreal to be playing on the Godiva Main Stage."

Nizlopi were a sensation at Godiva eighteen years ago (before most of Project Overload and all of Loophole were born) en route to a number one and international fame: as Luke Concannon told me this week: "playing at a big public festival like Godiva was part of our road to emerging on the National festival scene: really grateful for that help and experience!"

In other cases, it's a privilege to witness forms of rites of passage: artists who are already the toast of local venues making their debut at Godiva or making the step up to the Main Stage.

There are few bands over the past couple of years who have attracted the critical & popular buzz that Bar Pandora (who makes her much anticipated Godiva debut) and Duke Keats (who takes his rightful place on the Main Stage) have and I much prefer for them to articulate their own feelings on such matters:

"Since I moved to Coventry five years ago, I've been very aware of how important Godiva is to the local music scene, so I'm really honoured to be a part of it this year." (Charlie Tophill aka Bar Pandora)

"I'm extremely excited to be playing the 25th Anniversary of the Godiva Festival. I've had the opportunity to perform at the festival for quite a few years now. It has always been inclusive, family friendly and a wonderful opportunity for local and global musicians to perform & showcase their talent in a rich & diverse lineup."  (Connor Blundell aka Duke Keats)

Also playing their first Godiva (though drummer Ali Hutton has played before with other bands) are a band whose stock has been rising steadily over the past few years: Monday Nights:

"We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to play among great artists at a festival that gives so many local musicians a gateway to new opportunities!"

Izzie Derry has been playing Godiva for many years and this has been one of the launchpads for her career progression which not only is now in a national context but takes her to her first Glastonbury where she'll be joined by Dolly Mavies who played Godiva 2023. Isn't it great for the wider world to discover what we've known for longer than they have?

"I have played at the Godiva Festival for about 10 years now. It was one of the first places I performed when I was just starting out and I've made it back most years since. It will always be a special show for me as I have so many fond memories both performing and watching. This year I play Glastonbury Festival for the first time. I can't help but think all the years playing Godiva helped me master my craft and help me prepare for Glasto!" (Izzie Derry)

"We had a brilliant time. It was our first time at Godiva Festival. It's massive: the field is massive, the park is massive. The Stage is huge and it was so nice to see so many people supporting the more local music on the BBC Introducing stage…" (Dolly Mavies)

And then in a category entirely of her own is Ace Ambrose. Determinedly idiosyncratic, her relative absence from any stage in recent years relates more to unfortunate health & personal issues rather than any artistic statement and so it's great to be looking forwards to a high profile return at Godiva 2024:  "Personally I can't wait to be back on stage with a full band after a year and a half solo & I'm crash landing with a whole new line up of Oddities (and a set featuring 2 songs from the EP never performed live with a band)!"

So that's the local foci which are the main ones for our magazine, but I must also emphasise that a highlight for me of any Godiva Festival are the Boudica Festival curated acts: in 2024 this means The Go! Team. As a counterpoint to the commercially focused "external" bands on the Main Stage, The Boudica picks not only highlight female & non-binary artists, they also bring in the lesser known, the dangerous and the stimulating:  it was brilliant how the 2022 showcase of Dream Wife was dubbed the highpoint of that year's festival by so many people to whom I spoke.          

In an unplanned bit of serendipity as far as this article goes, the previously mentioned Charlie Tophill is now part of their team (joining Sarah Morgan, Director of the Tin, Michelle Bailey-Le Long of Duck Thieves and Film Liberation and Sarah Scouller DJ and promoter for Cov Sauce) and in their own words:

"We are proud to be teaming up with Godiva Festival for our fourth year, as they invite us back once more to showcase and celebrate women and non-binary artists. We have previously collaborated with Godiva Festival where we've brought the likes of Nova Twins, Big Joanie, Dream Wife and Dream Nails to the main stage. This year we are bringing cult heroes The Go! Team who we know many Coventrians will be excited to see and relive their teen days."

I spoke earlier about sustainability: the Godiva Festival is also fun. It's diverse. It's stimulating, opening ears to new sounds.

I'm so looking forwards to the music mentioned above, discovering new artists & reporting back to you. See you there!

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